June is referred to as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) Pride Month, named after 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in New York City. It’s important to raise awareness in every month, not just June, around the issues currently being faced by the LGBTQ communities in the United States. As a teacher, some students have confided in me about their gender identities, and I have been intentional about creating a classroom space in which they feel safe and validated, one where they are treated as equal members of our learning community. Educators can open up these conversations by starting with discussions around gender and the ways in which we let it impact our lives daily and how we can combat issues of identity by being conscious members of society.
Opening up channels of conversation around issues of identity in the classroom can begin with discussions around gender and sexuality. For instance, as a 10th grade teacher, I have seen gender roles be enforced by my students upon one another in the classroom. In a conversation about gender in the novel Things Fall Apart a few months ago, male students shared that the role of women was to follow her husband and do as he says. This caused an eruption in my female students who immediately called out the sexist language being used and stated their case for this assumption to not be created solely on the basis of gender. The majority of my students have grown up in Latinx households, where from personal experience, I can attest to the ways in which machismo and gender roles come into play from a very early age. It was expected that my sister and I help out around the house way more than my younger brother growing up. I have shared these experiences with my students as a way to demonstrate the ways in which we let gender influence our decisions daily.
It’s important that we start bringing issues of gender and more specifically, the LGBTQ community into our curriculums, there are resources being created for educators to serve this purpose. For instance, to raise awareness around the LGBTQ community, my students took part in a recent unit on the Research Cycle and one of their potential topics to research was the LGBTQ fight for equal rights. Seeing the way my students evaluated current laws and sentiments carried within the US and providing them with possible solutions and ways we can all support this movement brought a great sense of hope to my heart. This generation is still unlearning mindsets of prejudice, homophobia and sexism, but seeing their desire to progress and make a lasting change is a step in the right direction. Adolescence and high school specifically can bring out many opportunities for judgement and negative comments and the choices of students within our student body to make their identities public have filled me with loads of inspiration and admiration for this brave choice.
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